Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Nightline debuts

ABC's new Nightline debuted late last night. Some folks are wondering why the network would debut the show on a night the broadcast is delayed because of Monday Night Football. Hard to imagine it was an oversight. Perhaps ABC didn't want a high profile debut.

Among the noticeable differences between the new and the old: the broadcast now originates from ABC's Times Square studio; it is now live in the Eastern time zone (as the supers remind you throughout the broadcast); and the bumps look more like 20/20. Then there is the most obvious difference: it takes three anchors to replace Ted Koppel. It would be unfair to compare Cynthia McFadden's interviewing skills or closing thoughts to Koppel's -- but, let's face it, no one does it as well as the Tedster. And it will take awhile to get used to Martin Bashir calling McFadden "Cynthier."

But, at least it's news programming.

Meanwhile, a profile of Koppel in New York magazine suggests that Koppel did not leave Nightline voluntarily, but was pushed out by David Westin. The piece, "Is Ted Koppel Still Working Out his Anger Issues?" also quotes the longtime ABC newsman as saying he and Tom Bettag may do a program called "The F-ing Media."

Earlier: Classy Exit for Koppel

BYU waiting for bowl opponent

It looks like BYU is waiting on the Fiesta Bowl to determine who its bowl opponent will be. How's that? Well, as I understand it, the Fiesta folks are considering inviting either Ohio State or Oregon to face Notre Dame in the January 2 game. If they choose Ohio State then Oregon goes to the Holiday Bowl and California may be available to play against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. But, if they choose Oregon, California will go to Holiday Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl will turn to the WAC and BYU could end up with Nevada, UTEP, or Western Michigan.

On one hand, BYU fans should feel lucky to be in a bowl, regardless of the opponent. On the other hand, Go Buckeyes!

The anchor wars

Check out a fascinating read in New York magazine about the shifting network news world. Even as media executives try to figure out whether news on demand delivered to cell phones will be the Next Big Thing, the really big issue right now is who will anchor the nightly news at ABC and CBS.

According to the article, "Katie Couric is CBS’s best shot, its only shot, and its long shot all rolled into one." By all accounts, the once-proud network is still in absolute disarray, one year after Dan Rather announced he was leaving the Evening News. Meanwhile, Broadcasting and Cable magazine reports that "The drumbeat is getting louder and louder in the halls of CBS," that Les Moonves' efforts to woo Couric will pay off when the Today show anchor's contract runs out in the spring.

Naturally, the peacock network wants to discourage those rumors because Couric is the face of NBC News. “Let’s put it this way: If Katie Couric is CBS’s plan A,” an NBC News executive told New York magazine, “I sure hope they have a plan B.”

Meanwhile, the magazine examine's ABC News president David Westin's impossible situation: trying to keep everyone happy with his decision on a replacement for the late Peter Jennings. A decision was expected by now, but Westin is still trying to figure out whether to grant Charlie Gibson his wish by naming him the anchor, or keep Diane Sawyer happy by keeping Gibson on Good Morning America so the pair can have a shot at beating Today. The magazine provides a fascinating glimpse into the Gibson-Sawyer relationship.


Tasteless tease

More proof that television stations can be relied upon to misbehave during ratings sweeps: The Fox station (any surprise there?) in Charlotte upset viewers over the weekend with a tease that suggested teenagers were engaging in oral sex. The writing and the video were highly suggestive.

Why the shock? We do, after all, live in a deregulated media environment. We asked for it, and we're getting the results.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Oh, Canada!

Two pieces of news from my home and native land:

The Globe and Mail reporting that the Canadian government has fallen tonight in a non-confidence vote in parliament. The vote had been expected since a report was released several weeks ago detailing alleged corruption on behalf of the Liberal party in the late 1990s. The non-confidence vote means the prime minister will tomorrow ask the governor general to dissolve parliament and an election campaign will ensue with Canadians casting votes on January 23. It's the first Canadian election campaign to run through the Christmas holidays since Joe Clark's Conservatives beat Pierre Trudeau's Liberals in 1980.

And, on a lighter note, the Edmonton Eskimos win the Grey Cup, beating the Montreal Alouettes in double overtime, 38-35.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Lara Logan and the new CBS News

The New York Times profiles the beautiful and daring CBS News war correspondent Lara Logan this morning. Logan, who joined CBS in 2002, has been targeted as an upcoming star in a revamped CBS Evening News. While it has not yet been revealed what else a renovated Evening News might include, newly installed CBS News president Sean McManus says Logan will have a role because it's obvious that she is one of those who "just jump off the screen and have star value."

Logan is a South Africa native who previously reported in Britain for the morning show "GMTV." The British tabloids were brutal: A 2002 Guardian piece reports the tabs were fascinated with Logan's bra size and the fact that she is a former swim suit model. Such rough treatment has likely desensitized her to the Times dismissive characterization of her as an "it girl."

And what of the CBS Evening News makeover? Network chairman Les Moonves seemed to minimize his earlier comments that he wanted to "blow up" the news division, saying now that he wants to "modernize" it. Nevertheless, he also says the days of Walter Cronkite, Tom Browkaw, and Dan Rather are over.

McGinnis out at CBS News (November 17, 2005)
Heyward out, McManus is in at CBS (October 26, 2005)

Classy exit for Koppel

It was one of the classiest exits from a television news broadcast: Ted Koppel closed out his 26-year Nightline run last night by exerpting interviews he did with Morrie Schwartz the Lou Gehrig's victim of Tuesdays with Morrie fame. Then he ended the broadcast with a warning: give my successors a chance, or ABC will replace Nightline with a comedy program.

TV Newser has a transcription of Koppel's final thoughts and yesterday's Nightline e-mail.

The Washington Post's Tom Shales writes about the final broadcast and Koppel's accomplishments.

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes that Koppel was "the best TV anchor I never watched."

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley salutes Koppel for "eschewing the kind of self-referential pomposity that most anchors thrive on."

The AP's David Bauder adds a few details: Most of Tuesday's show was taped ahead of time, with Koppel writing and taping the final thoughts just yesterday. Also, his Nightline studio is being abandoned in favor of a new one under construction (in the same building) for Moran, et al.

Finally, the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik notes the massive transition in network television news this past year.

Earlier: Koppel's last broadcasts

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BYU to go bowling

BYU will go to its first bowl game in four years.

According to reports in various Utah papers this morning, the Las Vegas Bowl will announce at an 11 a.m. (MST) news conference that it is inviting BYU to face a yet-to-be-named Pac 10 team on December 22.

Ending the season with a 6-5 record, the team was much improved, despite disappointing losses to Utah and San Diego State, and a heartbreaker to Texas Christian.

Reportedly, the Las Vegas Bowl invitation was to be extended on Saturday night in the event of a BYU victory over Utah. Instead, bowl officials headed back to Vegas to discuss whether it really wanted a 6-5 team. In the end, it looks like the proximity of Las Vegas to a large BYU fan base carried the day.

Meanwhile, an otherwise disappointing season for Utah was saved by an overtime victory over BYU. The Utes are reportedly headed to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on December 29.

Legendary White House writer dies

The Washington Post reports that legendary Time magazine columnist Hugh Sidey has died. He was 78.

Sidey has covered the White House since President Eisenhower and was known for his column, "The Presidency."

More: AP story by Daniel Douglass (via Indianapolis Star)

Interest in studying journalism remains high

A piece in USA Today earlier this week points out what many journalism educators have noticed: more and more students want in. At BYU we've had to turn away more each application period for the past couple of years. As the USA Today piece points out, it's a curious phenomenon, given what low esteem journalism is held these days.

Related: "Confessions of a College Journalist -- why aspiring writings should be allowed to fail in private" (Slate)

Clear Channel wants to get bigger

A facsinating piece on NPR's Morning Edition today concerning media giant Clear Channel. The company is the country's largest broadcaster and the world's largest concert promoter. But profits and stock prices have been down recently, so the company is considering spinning off its concert promotion and billboard companies.

But that's not all.

The company says it needs to own more radio and television properties. At the moment, it cannot because it's already hit the cap set by law. But Clear Channel president Mark Mays wants the government to "step up and step back." Specifically, he wants his company "unshackled" from ownership caps and public interest requirements. There's nothing new in broadcasters wanting to unburden themselves from serving the public interest where profits are involved; what's significant about Mays' comment is that he is so open about it.

There is a way for broadcasters to be completely unshackled from government regulation: Some have suggested that rather than letting broadcasters use the public air waves for free, they could pay for frequencies at auction (as cell phone companies do), then let the market take over from there.

Despite concerns over audiences and diminishing advertising revenues, broadcasting is a profitable business. One big market property I visited recently has a stagggering 75% profit margin.

Also: "Not Necessarily the News," a critique of another giant broadcast chain, Sinclair Broadcasting (GQ)

Monday, November 21, 2005

ABC decision soon

Columnist Gail Shister (via TV Newser) writes that ABC News has made its decision on a replacement for the late Peter Jennings on World News Tonight. No announcement yet, but plenty of speculation. The announcement is likely being held off until after Ted Koppell's last broadcast.

Kurtz is media franchise

Perhaps there's no better poster boy for media convergence than media critic Howard Kurtz. He writes the "Media Notes" column for the Washington Post and hosts CNN's weekly "Reliable Sources," which recently expanded to one hour.

But, does Kurtz have a conflict of interest? Other print reporters appear on television, but, as an article in today's New York Times suggests, Kurtz's activities may be suspect because he is a media critic. Does he pull punches when CNN is in the news? What's he doing interviewing his boss at the Post on CNN? And how can Kurtz criticize journalists like Bob Woodward for potential conflicts of interest when he himself writes books on the side?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

McGinnis out at CBS

Marcy McGinnis seemed to be full of smiles and optimism last week when, along with some other university professors, we met with her in New York. But, the new president of the news division is pushing her out so he can pick his own deputy. Her last day as vice president of hard news at CBS is Friday.

Marcy has worked at CBS for more than 30 years, working her way up from secretary. I first learned who she was when she was running CBS NewsNet, the syndication service for the affiliates (now named Newspath).

Just one week ago, Marcy hosted a discussion of the recent hurricane coverage. She had to leave us when news broke of bombings in Jordan and we continued our discussion with correspondents Byron Pitts and Trish Regan.

CBS names new News President

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tomlinson broke the law

Internal investigators for the Corporation for Public Broadcast report that former CPB head Ken Tomlinson broke the law when he influenced PBS programming and paid a consultant without telling the board.

Tomlinson, a long-time conservative activist who reportedly coordinated his efforts with White House aide Karl Rove, had already stepped aside as chairman and has now resigned from the board because of the report. However, he had managed to install as his replacement another Republican partisan. And he has inflicted plenty of damage on the public broadcasting entities he was supposed to be protecting from political pressure.

Sounds like a candidate for a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New York trip

I couldn't resist posting this vanity photo of me posing on the Nightly News set during a visit this week to NBC. We were scheduled to meet with Brian Williams, but he needed to go to his child's school. Instead we had a great visit with Albert Oetgen, the senior producer of Nightly. While we were waiting for Al to get out of the "share" meeting we snooped in the studio until Rehema Ellis needed to do an on-camera piece.

Along with some other faculty members from across the country, I also met with editorial executives at CBS and WINS NewsRadio. The visits were arranged by the IRTS Foundation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Koppel's last Nightline broadcasts

Ted Koppel's last Nightline broadcast will be November 22, so the goodbye interviews are beginning. A nice Kurtz piece in the Washington Post today.

I have mixed feelings. I love Nightline and admire the work Koppel has done. But I'm disappointed that he refused to give me an interview about former ABC News president Elmer Lower. I'm Lower's biographer and in 2001 Koppel had agreed to be interviewed, then apparently changed his mind. I learned there would be no interview only after arriving at his office. Now that he's leaving Nightline, I can hope he'll change his mind again and, this time, grant the interview.

GQ exit interview

Friday, November 04, 2005

Letter writers thought Murrow was a Pinko

I made it into the Salt Lake Tribune today. Columnist Paul Rolly leads with letters I found recently at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston from individuals complaining to President Kennedy that he had appointed a "pinko" and "commie" by putting Edward R. Murrow at the head of the USIA. One of those letters was from the principal and faculty of the Springville Junior High in Springville, Utah.

The column runs as the movie "Good Night and Good Luck" finally opens in Utah (see earlier post).

Grant and Amanda talked briefly about the item during the 7 o'clock hour of the KSL Morning News.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

CNN dumps Aaron Brown

I'm so mad that CNN is dumping my favorite show. According to Lost Remote, Aaron Brown is out, his time slot being taking over by the cable net's new flavor of the month: Anderson Cooper.

What a shame: NewsNight was a thoughtful newscast, particularly by cable standards. I'm not sure it will help CNN with ratings. But then, who knows what will help.

Cooper, who is Gloria Vanderbilt's son, has been a hot property for the past year, but particularly since the hurricane coverage. Since then, CNN has been tinkering with the format of NewsNight.

Before coming to CNN in 2001, Brown was at ABC News and before that at KIRO in Seattle. (I ran teleprompter for him at the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans.)

I'll miss The Whip, tomorrow's papers, and Brown's wry comments.

NewsNighters fan site
The opinions stated here are my own and in no way reflect those of Brigham Young University, its students, faculty, or sponsoring institution.